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Nonwestern Music. Reflects/expresses world’s diversity. Each culture has its music practice. Some have all three—folk, pop, and classical. These musics influence western music. Especially true in the twentieth century. French composer Claude Debussy . British rocker George Harrison.

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Nonwestern Music

Reflects/expresses world’s diversity

Each culture has its music practice

  • Some have all three—folk, pop, and classical

These musics influence western music

  • Especially true in the twentieth century

  • French composer Claude Debussy

  • British rocker George Harrison

  • Jazz artist John Coltrane


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Chapter 1: Music in Nonwestern Cultures

Characteristics of Nonwestern Music

It reflects its supporting culture

  • Frequently linked with religion, dance and drama

  • Often used to communicate messages and relate traditions

Chapter 1

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Oral Tradition

Frequently transmitted by oral tradition

  • Music notation far less important than in western culture

  • Many cultures do not have a music notation

  • When they do, it serves as a record, not for teaching or performance

Chapter 1

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Improvisation is frequently basic to the music

  • Improvisation usually based on traditional melodic phrases and rhythmic patterns

Chapter 1

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Singing usually main way of making music

Vocal approach, timbre, and techniques vary throughout the world

  • Nasal sound

  • Strained tone

  • Throat singing

  • Many others

Chapter 1

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Four types based upon sound production:

  • Membranophones—stretched skin

  • Primarily drums

  • Chordophones—stretched string

  • Harp-type

  • Aerophones—performer’s breath

  • Flutes, trumpets, etc.

  • Idiophones—instrument’s body is sound generator

  • Bells, gongs, scrapers, rattles, etc.

Chapter 1

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Style and application within culture causes particular types of instruments to dominate

  • Strings allow great flexibility of pitch

  • Idiophones/membranophones: rhythmic emphasis

  • Aerophones aid in outdoor performance

Geography and materials availability influences

Religion also influences instrumentation

Chapter 1

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Melody, Rhythm, and Texture of instruments to dominate

Most nonwestern musics are monophonic

  • Sometimes accompanied by a drone

  • Some cultures use heterophony

  • All perform same melody with different ornamentation

Chapter 1

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Scales in nonwestern music are frequently quite different than western musical scales

  • Intervals between tones can be larger or smaller

Much nonwestern music has very complex rhythms

Chapter 1

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Interaction between Nonwestern than western musical scales

and Western Music

Nonwestern music has been greatly impacted by western influences due to:

  • Increased urbanization

  • Spread of technology

  • Almost worldwide access to recorded music

Some governments subsidize traditional music to preserve cultural heritage

Chapter 1

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Chapter 2: Music in Sub-Saharan Africa than western musical scales

Africa is divided into two parts: above and below the Sahara Desert

  • Above: Muslim, Arabic-speaking, music closely related to that of the Middle East

  • Below: Extremely diverse, many religions, cultures, and languages (over 700)

Chapter 2

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Though Sub-Saharan music is diverse, there are some similarities:

  • Complex rhythms and polyrhythms

  • Percussive sounds

  • Wide variety of instrumental ensembles

  • Vocal music often a soloist and responding chorus

Chapter 2

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Music in Society similarities:

Music permeates African life from religion, entertainment, and magic to rites of passage

It is so interwoven into life that the abstract word “music” is not used by many peoples

Chapter 2

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Closely associated with dancing in ceremonies, rituals, and celebrations

  • Dancers frequently play and sing while dancing

Music is a social activity—everyone joins in

No musical notation—passed by oral tradition

Chapter 2

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Elements of African Music celebrations

Rhythm and Percussion

Complex rhythms and polyrhythms predominate

Dancers choose to follow any of the various rhythms

The body used as an instrument

  • Clapping, stamping, slapping thigh/chest

Chapter 2

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Vocal Music celebrations

Wide variety of sounds, even within a single piece

  • Call and response extremely common

Percussion ostinato frequently accompanies singers

Short musical phrases repeated to different words

Chapter 2

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Texture celebrations

Often homophonic or polyphonic

  • This is unlike most nonwestern musics

Same melody often sung at many pitch levels

Chapter 2

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African Instruments celebrations


Most common African instrument

Most are of indefinite pitch

Xylophones, a favorite, come in many sizes

“Talking drum” with slit in side can produce two to four tones

Chapter 2

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Membranophones celebrations

Used in many ceremonial and work-pace applications

  • Drum manufacture often accompanied by special rites

Drums usually played in groups—multiple players

Variety of shapes, sizes, and forms

Chapter 2

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Aerophones and Chordophones celebrations

Flutes and trumpets (of wood and horn) most common

  • Reed instruments less widespread

Chordophones plucked or struck, gourd resonators

Chapter 2

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Listening celebrations


Song from central Ghana

Claude Debussy

Listening Outline: p. 411

Brief Set, CD 4:66

Music of the Akan-speaking peoples in Ghana.

Listen for: Call and response

Solo vocalist and chorus

Percussion ensemble

Chapter 2

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Chapter 3: Classical Music of India celebrations

Musical traditions date back over 3,000 years

Two main types of classical music

  • Hindustani: secular, court music from Northern India (including Pakistan)

  • Absorbed many Persian elements due to Muslim Persian rulers

  • Karnatak: temple music from South India

  • Developed along its own lines

Chapter 3

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Performers celebrations

Music viewed as a spiritual discipline

Oral tradition—study by apprenticeship


Very important, sophisticated, and developed

Guided by melodic and rhythmic formula

Must study for years before allowed improvise

Chapter 3

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Elements of Indian Classical Music celebrations

Music is based upon the human voice

  • Pitch range limited to about four octaves

Highly embellished melody, both vocal and instrumental, is characteristic

Melodies almost always accompanied by a drone instrument

Chapter 3

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Melodic Structure: Raga celebrations

Melody exists within a framework called a raga—a defined pattern of notes

  • Each raga has an ascending and descending form

Raga means “color” or “atmosphere”

  • The melody “colors the mind”

Each raga associated with a particular mood

  • Also linked with gods, seasons, festivals, and times of day

Chapter 3

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Rhythmic Structure: Tala celebrations

Rhythm is organized into blocks or cycles, each called a tala

  • Tala range from 3-100 beats in length

  • 6-16 is most common

  • Ten-beat tala jhaptal divided 2—3—2—3

  • |1 2 |3 4 5 |6 7 |8 9 10|

  • Ten-beat tala shultal divided 4—2—4

  • |1 2 3 4 |5 6 |7 8 9 10|

Chapter 3

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Instruments celebrations

Vocal music most important in India

Many types of instruments

  • Many instruments associated with specific gods

Sitar most popular chordophone

  • Long necked, lute (guitar) like instrument

  • 7 plucked strings, 9-13 sympathetically vibrating

Drums of many sizes

  • Tabla and mridangam drums most common

Chapter 3

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Ravi Shankar—sitar celebrations



Chapter 3

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Listening celebrations


Ravi Shankar

Listening Guide: p. 415

Brief Set, CD 3:69

Listen for: Raga and tala organization

Heavy reliance on stringed instruments

Extensive improvisation

Nonwestern musical form

Chapter 3